In Rowland's ninth absorbing historical set in 17th-century Japan (after 2003's The Dragon King's Palace), Sano Ichiro, the shogun's special criminal investigator, must once again navigate treacherous political waters to solve a puzzling murder. Sano finds himself retained by a corpse when the valet of one of the country's leading figures, councilman Makino Narisada, delivers a posthumous request from his master. Narisada asks Sano to examine the circumstances of his own death. At first it seems that the elderly official succumbed to natural causes, but several clues point to foul play. While the initial suspects from the victim's household all appear to be harboring guilty knowledge, the detective's task is rapidly complicated when the two leading political rivals battling to succeed the shogun accuse each other of the murder and pressure Sano to slant his pursuit accordingly. The shadow of events from The Dragon King's Palace hangs heavily over the two main supporting characters, Sano's wife and his chief assistant, driving them to take perilous risks; nonetheless, this is an accessible entry point to the series for newcomers. Deftly combining a classic whodunit with vivid period detail, Rowland raises the stakes for her next book with an unexpected twist at the end that promises to present her dogged but fallible hero with even more difficulties in the future. (Apr. 16) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In 1694 Edo, two bands of insurgents try to wrest control from the Tokugara regime. Sano Ichiro (Black Lotus), the shogun's investigator, is approached by both sides but remains neutral. His subsequent investigation of a highly placed official's suspicious death, therefore, could have political consequences. Excellent work. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Sano Ichiro is used to subtle dangers, like daggers in the back; now he faces outright civil war between two armies massing in the City of Edo. The Shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People serves a weak master whom two strong, ambitious courtiers are determined to control. The Shogun's cousin, Lord Matsudaira, has challenged the Chamberlain Yanagisawa's ascendancy over his sovereign and former lover, and war between their followers is only a matter of time. When Makino Narasada, senior member of the Council of Elders, demands posthumously that Sano investigate his death, the samurai's hard-won neutrality is threatened. Saddled with an overseer from each faction, Sano nonetheless uncovers details of Narasada's sex life, which, for an octogenarian, was surprisingly involved. There are many other sordid sexual escapades to investigate as well, including those of Lord Matsudaira's nephew and, maintaining the balance of power, the Chamberlain Yanagisawa's son. Reiko, Sano's wife, overcomes her trauma from a previous adventure (The Dragon King's Palace, 2003) to go undercover, while Sano's chief retainer, Hirata, remains handicapped by his shame from having disobeyed Sano. Shame and honor are redistributed, however, in a surprising climax. In her eighth quasi-historical chronicle, Rowland, always preoccupied by the conjunction of sex and politics, pushes aside the mystery altogether to stir up a stew of sexual and political intrigue, above which Sano stoically rises. Agent: Pam Ahearn